Steve Brown had an ambitious goal when he took over Romantix in September 2007; he wanted to attract women and couples to the sensual chain, while holding onto its loyal fan-base, which was mostly male.
By November of that year, ten of the chain’s 54 stores had added apparel to their adult novelty and book merchandise. Today, all of Romantix’ 57 stores — which vary in size, but average at approximately 3,500-square-feet — carry intimate apparel. The company employs a staff of approximately 500 including apparel buyer Amanda Funnell, who shops for styles at ILS twice-annually, as well as at local Denver, Co. tradeshows. She stocks each store individually based on the wants and needs of its specific customer base.
Although stores still vary from a harder, elaborate and risqué adult-oriented ambiance to a large, bright, and “softer” lay-out, the retailer is continually softening its image by adding new inventory and display windows, making colors lighter and more subdued, and improving signage and customer service. Its goal with these techniques is to triple apparel sales over the next two years. Intimates start at $7.99 for Carrie Amber and Milili panties, with highest priced items being select bustiers and corsets by Coquette and Shirley of Hollywood. Funnell reported that Romantix keeps its prices 10 to 15 percent lower than the competitions’. Sizes range from 32A to 42DD, and XS through 3X/4X.
Although best-selling brands vary per store, Carrie Amber Intimates, which Funnell named as the up-and-coming brand in the industry, and Dreamgirl are consistently best selling across the board. Men’s best sellers include Unico, Male Power, and Dreamgirl’s Blue Diamond collection. In stores frequented by adult entertainers, Body Zone apparel running from $9.99 to $39.99 is very popular. The current hottest styles at Romantix include plus-size bustiers and babydolls priced from $24.99 to $49.99, and Fantasywear like Dreamgirl’s Study Buddy and Dirty Cop ($22.99). The typical customer spends $40 or more per visit. Despite the poor economy, the retailer is doing the opposite of streamlining, instead consistently introducing new brands. “While some of brands sell better in different areas, we have not phased out any brand completely,” Funnell said.
According to Brown, the retailer serves just about every type of consumer, from urban young adults to men in their 80’s from every social, ethnic and economic background. The average size is just as varied with some customer bases on the slim side, while others tend to be curvier. "That is why we strive to stock each store in a unique manner based on their specific customer base," he remarked. "This complicates the apparel buyer’s job considerably, but is the only way to satisfy the needs of each store’s customers.”
Romantix believes that shoppers keep coming back because of its variety, respectful sales assistance, welcoming environment, affordable prices and convenient locations. It also attracts new shoppers by advertising through print and radio nationwide, in local newspapers like Westword in Denver and San Diego City Beat, as well as by strengthening its web and e-mail marketing presence. Stores run quarterly merchandise and sales promotions, and this fall will launch a weekly "Ladies Night" designed for women to learn about specific products in a relaxing environment tailored to them.
Although the retailer plans to remain consistent and continue to market and advertise during this downed market, it believes that it fills a need "that is strong in our country no matter how the economy is." And the company has noticed changes in women’s attitudes that make lingerie more appealing.
“Women today are looking to feel empowered and sexy at the same time,” Funnell commented. “It’s not just about buying lingerie for a one-time use; women want to feel sexy everyday. Intimate apparel is something that women and men continue to buy because its is a semi-consumable product [that does not break] the bank.”
By creating a comfortable environment for sexy shopping, Romantix believes that it will continue to attract customers who normally shy away from adult-oriented stores.
"Romantix makes sure that everyone coming through our doors has a very positive experience that shatters their concept of what an adult store is," Brown said. "We believe that all customers should be able to get the products they need in an environment that is comfortable."